For your patriotic planning purposes, mark down Tuesday, Sept. 10 as the most likely date for the United States to officially book passage to next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Jurgen Klinsmann’s team faces Mexico that night in Columbus, on the very same field, against the very same bitter rival and quite close to the very date when the United States qualified officially for World Cup 2006. (Steve Ralston with the game-winner! I mean, who saw that coming?)
Qualifying against Mexico is the cherry on this sundae of World Cup delight; just getting there is always the primary target, obviously. But booking official passage against reeling Mexico would be a memorable bonus – like when you order your favorite milkshake, and they bring you the extra milky goodness leftover from the metal mixer.
(MORE: U.S. notes as the team departs for Costa Rica)
Still, there is a scenario that could see the United States qualify against Costa Rica on Friday at the Estadio Nacional in La Sabana, just outside of San Jose. Here’s what must happen:
- The United States must beat Costa Rica. (The U.S. team is 0-7-1 in World Cup qualifiers in Costa Rica. That clearly bothers manager Jurgen Klinsmann, who is putting a lot of effort, emotional and otherwise, into this one.)
- Mexico and Honduras must draw when they meet that night at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. Everyone draws these days at Azteca against offensively challenged Mexico, so that one is hardly far-fetched.
- Panama must either tie lose to Jamaica down in Central America – not impossible but not very likely, either, as Jamaica has been the final-round qualifying doormat so far.
The United States is going to Brazil next summer; official qualification at this point is mere formality, even if not mathematically so. Still, they aren’t booked until they are booked, and it will be a moment to celebrate, without a doubt.
The United States has been to every World Cup since 1986. This will mark the program’s seventh consecutive World Cup appearance.
Here are the CONCACAF final-round standings; the top three teams qualify automatically for Brazil 2014. The fourth-place finisher faces a home-and-away play-in series against New Zealand.